Roadtrip to Mt. Charleston
McWilliams Campground
in our Model 3

Mark D Larsen
June 15-17, 2021

Roughing It… Smoothly
(Click to enlarge)

After so many months in the pandemic lockdown, I am now fully vaccinated and wanted to celebrate with a brief camping trip. I checked various campgrounds and found that almost all of them in this area were full except for a few isolated, single day reservations throughout the summer. However, a good friend on Twitter, Cindy McMillan, had once tweeted about the gorgeous mountain scenery at Mt. Charleston, to the west of Las Vegas. I decided to look up that area and found that I could at least reserve a spot for three days and two nights in McWilliams Campground. I made the reservation and started gathering my camping paraphernalia. Below is a verbose narrative of my first overnight roadtrip in over a year.

NOTE: You can click on the following photos to enlarge them and the movie to play it.

Since I had never towed my tiny camping trailer to Las Vegas before, I decided to charge Correcaminos to 90%, instead of my usual 80%, just to be on the safe side.

I left with 39,702 miles on the odometer, and projected that it would cross the 40K threshold during the trip.

I hooked up the trailer and pulled out of the garage, ready to start the journey.

I set the navigation to take me to the High Roller LINQ Supercharger because it has some units mounted on the sides to accommodate Teslas towing trailers.

The energy screen predicted I would arrive with 46% in the battery. Of course, it didn’t know I’d be towing a trailer, so I doubted the prediction would hold true.

The shortest route to Las Vegas takes me up Highway 91 to the summit of the Utah Mountains.

When I reached the summit, the energy screen had already lowered its prediction to 41% upon arrival, based upon the effect the trailer was having on range.

One odd thing about towing a trailer is that the car’s sensors detect it with yellow warning lines, as if there were an obstacle to the rear that drivers need to be aware of. In fact, if you back up with a trailer, the car will beep a constant string of warnings of an imminent collision.

Another odd thing about towing my trailer is that it is so tiny you can’t see it in the side or rearview mirrors. And it is so light that you can’t even feel it attached to the car. The only way to know it is back there is by using the rearview camera.

I had put the recommended 42 psi in my tires the day before. However, I noted en route that the very hot weather was raising the pressures even higher.

When passing by the Moapa Paiute Indian reservation, I was intrigued and impressed to see its new, huge solar farm on the navigation screen.

My small trailer tires have a K speed rating (65 mph), so I didn’t exceed that on the freeway, probably irritating other drivers going the 75 mph speed limit and higher. After about two hours, I could see Las Vegas ahead, as usual shrouded in hazy pollution. Ugh!

I managed to get through the downtown congestion and arrived at the Supercharger, happy to see that the units for vehicles towing trailers were unoccupied.

The energy screen showed that I had arrived with a 41% charge, 5% percent less than originally predicted. The estimated range when I left was 268 miles. The battery now had 122 miles + 126 miles driven = 248 miles. That 20 mile difference ÷ 268 = a 7.46% drop in range from towing the trailer. Not bad!

I plugged in, and the Supercharger predicted it would take 30 minutes to again reach 90%. I suspected that it would take at least that long because I decided to leave the A/C running because of the 104°F outside temperature.

I noticed this Model S with a wrap so shiny it was practically a mirror. It made me wonder if it crossed in front of you at night, would the reflection of your headlights temporarily blind you, like a camera flash…?

And here is one of my biggest pet peeves: when drivers just dump the HPWC cables on the ground without winding them up after charging.

I suppose I was too naïve to assume that Tesla owners were more enlightened and perceptive of the world around them. Why be so careless with the equipment, so ungrateful to the site owner, so rude to the next driver? BE KIND! REWIND!

I was delighted that the Supercharge finished in only 24 minutes, 6 minutes earlier than estimated, despite the A/C running.

I then set the navigation to guide me to the McWilliams Campground, and it predicated a distance of 52 miles.

Yet it also estimated that I’d arrive with only a 54% charge, due to the steep climb into the mountains.

It’s odd that I have passed these mountains when driving through Las Vegas countless times, yet was unaware that there were forests at the top.

After driving 30 miles on I-95, I turned onto Lee Canyon Road leading straight up into the mountains.

Oddly, the energy display now showed that I was exceeding its prediction, and would arrive with a 57% charge.

After another dozen miles I was astounded to discover that the area boasted some impressive, towering peaks all around Lee Canyon.

The range estimate when I had exited I-95 proved to be optimistic. I arrived at my camp spot with a 52% charge —2% less than estimated at the Supercharger. Even worse: the 90% charge had estimated a 270 mile range, but it now showed only 156 miles remaining, as though I had driven 114 miles instead of 52. (114 - 52 = a 62 mile difference) ÷ 270 predicted = a 23% loss in range from dragging the trailer up the steep climb.

Here’s my camping spot, which had a difficult angle for backing the trailer in, especially since I couldn't see it in the rearview mirror. I had to see-saw back and forth several times to finally manage it.

This is the view of the mountains through the pines that my spot afforded me. Nice!

I flipped the trailer open, set up the poles for its awning, and then attached the screen room.

From inside the screen room, you can see that I had to park Correcaminos at an angle to get it off the campground road.

Inside the camper I set up the bed and anticipated a nice, restful night in the cool mountain air.

During the afternoon I decided to explore a bit of the area and was surprised to discover that there is actually a ski resort in those mountains. I had no idea that there was one so close to Las Vegas.

Here is a short movie in which I comment on how Autopilot was handling the winding roads with aplomb. You’ll see toward the end of the clip that I got an unanticipated surprise, yet the Autopilot didn't even flinch. I now wish I had paid attention to what the touchscreen was showing.

At the end of the road to the ski resort, there was a large circle for turning around, but with parking prohibited because it was also used for… this.

The Old Town of Mr. Charleston boasted a local library.

The road climbed farther up to a nice viewpoint…

…of Cathedral Rock.

On the other side of the canyon there were several impressive “cabins” interspersed among the pines, and I am willing to bet that they belong to casino owners and other fat cats from Las Vegas.

After I returned to the campground, the setting sun cast reddish hues on the peaks above.

I had a bit of dinner, and settled down for the night in the camper. I had a great rest: my sleeping bag was cozily warm, yet the air was so refreshingly cool on my face.

The next morning, I noticed that there were numerous blue “cones” all around the campground.

According to this sign, they contain saplings. I’m glad to see that the forest service is sponsoring this project, helping to grow more trees to help suck up all the CO2 we are dumping into the atmosphere.

I drove back to the ski resort to take a morning hike on the Upper Bristlecone Pine Trail.

The trail head starts on one side of the helicopter pad.

I could see closer views of the ski slopes from farther up the path.

I could also see that one of the buildings near the ski lift was a modernized yurt.

This sign gave an ominous warning. They allow dogs on this trail, and I sure hope one never tries to fetch one of these things for its master!

It was still pleasantly cool as the trail wound its way through the pines along the side of the canyon.

“I’ll take the high road, and you take the low road, and I’ll reach the summit afore ye.”

I am no botonist, but enjoy seeing wild flowers in the mountains, and spotted several like these pale blue ones…

…these reddish orange blossoms…

…a few yellow flowers…

…and bouquets of tiny white ones. Too bad I don’t know their names to identify them!

Near the summit I took this photo of the mountain range behind the campground.

I noticed that the forest service had been piling up dead tree limbs and branches, probably to later haul off for firewood in the campground.

I arrived back at camp fairly tired, and spent the afternoon and evening appreciating the forest views and doing some reading.

The next morning I was up early enough to catch the dawn as it peaked over the mountains.

I was surprised to find that the camper and Correcaminos were covered with yellow dust, probably pollen from the trees…?

Even the windows were covered with streaks of it.

I cleaned the pollen off of the windshield so I could see through it while driving home. I had my work cut out for me cleaning both the car and the camper when I get home.

I took down the screen room and awning, folded the camper back up, and rehooked it to Correcaminos. I then set the navigation to return to the LINQ Superchargers.

As you can see, I only had about 78 miles left in the battery for the 52 mile journey. The energy display estimated that it was at 26%, but would only drop another 2% upon arrival because of regenerative braking when descending from the mountains.

I arrived at the Superchargers to find my same spot unoccupied.

In reality, I had arrived with 22% left in the battery pack, slightly less than predicted. It’s worth noting, however, that the battery still showed 65 miles of range, suggesting that I’d only used 13 miles to drive 52 with regenerative braking. Sweet!

I plugged in to the Supercharger, and was amazed to see the fastest initial charge rate I’ve ever experienced: 1,071 mph from 251 kW! The display projected it would take 35 minutes to fill the battery to 90%. I again left the A/C running, since it was already 100°F at 9:00 AM.

While waiting, I spotted a Chevy Bolt plugged in to one of the HPWC, using a Tesla-to-J1772 adapter. I hope that owner is more courteous than most and winds up the cable when finished.

There were only about a half-dozen Teslas plugged into the LINQ Superchargers, but it was still pretty early in the morning for a casino town.

As I expected, my Supercharger had slowed way down as it approached the 90% limit. With 1 minute left, it was now cranking out only 140 mph from 33 kW.

When it finished after only 33 minutes instead of 35, the battery now had 168 miles of range, which makes me suspect that the pack had lost 2 miles of capacity since the two previous 90% charges, perhaps because of the intense heat wave we’re experiencing this year.

The energy display projected that the 90% charge would dwindle to 37% by the time I reached home.

When I pulled in the garage, I'd driven 125.7 miles and had 38% in the battery, i.e., 1% more than predicted.

The entire roadtrip I’d clocked 402.4 miles using 104 kWh, which translates to 3.87 miles-per-kWh. I was pleased that the efficiency of my 2018 Model 3 LR RWD on this trip was so close to its EPA rating of 3.84 —even when towing the trailer behind me.

And sure enough: as anticipated, the odometer had crossed the 40,000 mile threshold 105 miles before reaching home.

It was liberating and refreshing to finally take another roadtrip, even moreso by spending a couple of nights camping in the mountains among the pines. I hope to do so again soon, although I anticipate that other roadtrip plans to visit relatives in different states might take precedent.